Top-5 Red Sox pitching performances from the 2021 season

Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Red Sox RHP Nick Pivetta
Aug 7, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nick Pivetta (37) delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

Red Sox lose despite Nick Pivetta flirting with a no-hitter

We’ve already discussed that Alex Cora is the rare manager with the stomach to pull a starter on their way to a potentially historic outing. We shouldn’t have been all that surprised by the early hook he gave Houck considering the precedent he set with Nick Pivetta during a game in Tampa Bay back in June.

Pivetta had a no-hitter going against the Rays when Cora removed him with two outs in the seventh inning. The controversial decision risked drawing the ire of the fanbase but there was a method to his madness.

Austin Meadows had reached on an error and a groundout moved him into scoring position with two outs in the seventh inning of a scoreless game. Boston’s offense had also been silent and they couldn’t afford to fall behind in a game where runs were at a premium.

Cora summoned Josh Taylor to replace Pivetta. With first base open, Manuel Margot was intentionally walked to allow the lefty Taylor to face the left-handed Joey Wendle, who hit a meager .202 against southpaws this year. The plan worked when Taylor retired Wendle on a lazy fly out to left.

The Red Sox would end up losing the game when Matt Barnes unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Margot to score in the bottom of the ninth. Seriously, a walk-off wild pitch in an otherwise scoreless game!

The result can’t be blamed on the decision to remove Pivetta, who had reached 100 pitches through 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander tossed 100+ pitches nine times this year but he was very likely to reach his season-high of 111 at some point in the eighth inning if he had remained in the game. We shouldn’t assume that he would have still been in for the ninth even if the no-hitter was still intact.

Pivetta issued two walks, hit a batter and had another reach on an error. Despite not allowing a hit, the Rays put a runner on base against him in four consecutive innings. That led to the rising pitch count and the control issues were enough of a reason to be nervous about leaving him on the mound.

The near no-hitter was one of three starts this season in which Pivetta went 6+ innings without allowing an earned run. He struck out eight, a total he topped only three times this year. Settling for no-decision in a game the Red Sox ultimately lost is the main reason that prevents this outing from climbing to the top of the list.